Es Devlin to design UK Pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai
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British artist Es Devlin will design the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, becoming the first female designer to win the highly-coveted commission in the long history of world expos.
The building, a space-inspired interactive poetry generator, which resembles a giant megaphone, becomes the latest high-profile project announced for the global trade show.
Her design, called the "Poem Pavilion," invites visitors to contribute a message to be turned into poetry by artificial intelligence, and then displayed in LEDs. Devlin said the concept, which will be multilingual, was inspired by the late British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.
"The idea draws directly on one of Stephen Hawking's final projects, 'Breakthrough Message', a global competition that Hawking and his colleagues conceived in 2015 inviting people worldwide to consider what message we would communicate to express ourselves as a planet, should we one day encounter other advanced civilizations in Space," she said in a press release.
Devlin, best known for her set designs for live music shows including Kanye West and Beyoncé, Olympic ceremonies and fashion events, was awarded the Panerai London Design Medal in 2017.
She speculated that the pavilion could become "a place where visitors from all over the world chose to take part in a collective global project that showcases British expertise in A.I. technologies and poetry while transcending national identities."
It will not be the first time Devlin has dabbled with these themes. At this year's London Design Festival she installed a fluorescent red fifth lion to the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. The sculpture, called "Please Feed the Lions" projected lines of poetry out of its mouth.
Devlin's design will seek to join a roster of critically-acclaimed UK Pavilions from recent years. The Heatherwick Studio-designed "Seed Cathedral" and "The Hive" by Wolfgang Buttress both won design prizes at Expo 2010 Shanghai and Expo 2015 Milan, respectively.
UK Pavilions are overseen by the UK government's Department for International Trade. As the first major World Expo post-Brexit, and given the event's history as a stage for national soft power, there will be added pressure on the pavilion.
UK International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said the expo was a "unique opportunity to showcase the very best of British," describing the expected 25 million visitors as "25 million buyers of our products, partners for our firms, tourists for our cities and students for our universities."
Expo 2020 Dubai runs from October 2020 to April 2021.